Hearing aid costs are rising with inflation. See what that means for you and how you can minimize out-of-pocket costs in this article.
The past two years have seen record inflation throughout the world, and especially in the U.S. Whether it’s the price of gas or the price of groceries, everything costs more than before. While some sectors of the economy see less dramatic increases in cost, no one is unaffected, including medical supplies and equipment. Hearing aid cost, likewise, has gone up since the beginning of 2022. And because of this increase, it’s even more important to know what you might need to prepare for if you are looking to purchase a hearing device in the near future.
You’ve no doubt heard the term thrown around recently, but what does inflation mean? Simply put, inflation is a decrease in the value of currency over time, resulting in higher prices for goods and services. As the currency’s value drops, it takes more of that currency to buy the same product. What once cost $1, then, might now cost $1.30 a year later.
Inflation is driven by a few factors. They often interact with each other, and sometimes are dependent on each other. There are four main causes of inflation:
Today’s world has been affected by all four of these factors, as workers demand higher pay following a pandemic that crippled the supply chain on a global scale. Meanwhile, interest rates, especially on real estate, were at a record low only two years ago. The influx of available cash from the low interest rates and higher wages led to a decrease in currency value. Now we’re seeing the effects of these shifts: our current global inflation average is at 7 percent, with individual industries and services seeing as much as 10 percent inflation or more.
Almost every commodity or service is experiencing the effects of inflation, medical equipment included. Hearing aid cost has seen an increase of around 6 percent since last year, a steep increase for manufacturers of hearing loss devices. And that increase in manufacturing costs translates to an additional consumer cost of roughly $200 more on average. And until inflation slows, this cost increase will only grow.
With hearing aid costs on the rise, and quality hearing aid devices already ranging in price from $1,500 to $6,000 in January 2022 (and some brands like Miracle Ear priced up to $7,500), hearing loss patients that were already concerned about affordability are likely looking for alternatives to the expensive devices. Some over-the-counter hearing aids may sell for as little as $400, but there’s a reason for the large price gap between a quality pair of hearing aids and the drugstore options.
So why is there so much difference in price between over-the-counter hearing aids and prescription aids? There are several factors that make a difference in hearing aid costs, and it’s worth considering these before making a purchase.
The most noticeable difference in hearing aid cost is in the technology within the hearing aids. Recent technological advances offer solutions like feedback management, noise reduction, options to address tinnitus, and the ability to fine-tune frequency correction in the software itself. Hearing aids are also more versatile than ever, with some models offering Bluetooth connectivity to connect directly to smartphones and televisions. There are also programs to help with crowd noise so that conversations in noisy environments are more audible.
In fact, noise filtering programming is the biggest research and development cost associated with hearing aids today, and it’s why so many options are expensive. But for those with even minor hearing issues, it’s one of the most frustrating problems to have. This technology has improved dramatically over the last several years, but finding a solution that allows people to hear conversations in bars, restaurants, or busy workplaces is likely the most pressing issue today.
Beyond the devices themselves, hearing aid cost may include audiologist visits, custom fitting costs, ongoing care and adjustments, and maintenance expenses. The initial fitting usually includes making sure the hearing devices fit well and that the initial programming corrects the proper areas of concern. Additional visits may be necessary, though, in order to fine-tune your corrective programming.
Insurance coverage for hearing tests, appointments, and devices varies from provider to provider, and even from plan to plan. Still, there may be some benefits included within your insurance plan that could ease hearing aid cost concerns. Copays, coinsurance, and even health care allowances may be available to reduce overall cost.
Hearing aids can be expensive, especially when the technology and hardware are on the cutting edge. Investing in quality hearing aids is important, though. If you have profound hearing loss, or if you suffer from specific conditions like tinnitus, you may need to spend more to get the solutions you need. If you suffer severe hearing deficiencies, your audiologist will prescribe a device with stronger and more amplifiers. Specific frequency concerns also require a better product than over-the-counter devices to correct properly. While it may be frustrating to see that initial price tag, the investment means better hearing, a goal worth investing in.
Now, with all that said, there are some things that you can do to make sure you’re prepared for the cost, and that you minimize spending on specifications you don’t need. There are many devices on the market, as well as man different care and maintenance options to get them set up, so don’t feel like you are trapped with only one path towards that final cost. Let’s look at some ways to minimize out-of-pocket hearing aid cost while still receiving the best solution for your hearing needs.
When planning for an audiologist appointment, call your provider ahead of time to see what coverage you might have. Perhaps the initial screening is covered, or maybe every visit is a copay only. Policies aren’t always clear about every detail, so calling before you make any purchasing decisions could help guide the financial decision you make.
Choosing a licensed audiologist rather than a doctor or CNP may also change your plan’s coverage. We always recommend a licensed audiologist for hearing screenings, fittings, and adjustments since these professionals are better trained to analyze and evaluate a detailed hearing test. They also can give valuable advice for what you do and do not need for your hearing correction, which can change the hearing aid cost dramatically.
If your insurance plan or workplace offers health savings accounts, or flex accounts, they work perfectly for expenses like hearing aids when insurance doesn’t have copay or coinsurance options. Even when you do have coinsurance for hearing devices, these accounts are pre-tax, so your dollar can stretch a bit further than direct out-of-pocket spending.
CareCredit is also an option at many audiology offices, including ours. The company specializes in health-related financing so that you can set up monthly payments for major health expenses, including hearing aids. For those on fixed incomes, or if hearing aid costs are above your budget when you need them, CareCredit offers the ability to get the hearing assistance you need today while still maintaining your monthly budget demands.
Before you decide which hearing aids to buy, research the costs of both initial investments and recommended additional visits and fittings. Manufacturer-direct pricing may offer some lower pricing. Purchasing through your audiologist or through a discount network could also reduce your expenses.
Additionally, ask your audiologist what kind of follow-up appointments may be necessary to get the most out of your new hearing aids. These additional costs may make a difference in which device you choose, as less expesnive but less sophisticated hearing aids may require far more adjustments or maintenance to function properly.
There’s no shame in wanting something in writing when making a major financial decision. In fact, it’s an excellent safeguard against unexpected costs. From the hearing aid cost itself to things like return and warranty policies, know what your audiologist and the manufacturer are promising when you buy your hearing aids.
If you need help navigating the journey of regaining your hearing, or if you want help finding ways to reduce your final hearing aid cost, contact us today to start a conversation and schedule a screening. We are here to help you get back to enjoying time with your friends and family!